DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Undefended Leader

Written by: on November 15, 2019

It is impressive how Simon Walter brings out the trilogy of the Undefended leader. His definition of these types of leadership brings out the right kind of leadership we experience in our lives. Leading out of who you are, with nothing to lose and with everything to give, is a Christian concept of self-denial for the sake of the gospel. When the rich man visited Jesus and asked him what he could to inherit the kingdom of God after he had kept the commandments of God faithfully. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” This message connects with what Walter is describing here in the trilogy of the undefended leader. It is also these undefended leaders who are associated with the greatest revolutions, in which the lower forms of power overthrown, and a bright light shines upon the most authentic nature of humanity. It is in undefended leaders that we glimpse our true potential and in undefended structures of power that people are set most genuinely free. This reminds me of the early establishment of the Quaker church by a British businessperson who leads the church out of who he was with values that many people subscribed to for humanity. He stressed the importance of peace with humanity and the environment, integrity in leading the people and creating honesty communities in the world, equality of all humankind irrespective of gender or race, but all made in the image of God and a simplistic life. That is living while caring about others and not extravagantly while others are in need. He promoted non-violent negotiation for peace and conscience objectors to war. George Fox had a goal that he articulated very well through his vision, and his followers trusted him and followed this theology in the 17th century.
Walter explains that the leader’s ability to articulate the goal is Vision, but the relationship between the followers and the goal is the movement. In other words, the followers must move towards the goal envisioned by the leader. As much as this concept is real, some of the Quaker church followers do not subscribe to this model of power as far as leadership is a concern. This is the reason my dissertation is based on the conflict between the trained clergy and laity leadership. Quakers fear power coming in their line of leadership. It is a complex management model within the organization.
On the other hand, the Quakers operate on the platform of the backstage leadership and less of the frontstage leadership under the trilogy of the undefended leader but would not wish to say they are using power. Walker describes the backstage leadership as a platform that provides the basis for successful delivery on the front stage. But the backstage part they played in the second world war through Friends Ambulance Unity by saving lives of the wounded soldiers and providing humanitarian support to families affected by the war, saw the church awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 after the war. Their backstage operations came to the frontstage through the results of their excellent work.

About the Author


John Muhanji

I am the Director Africa Ministries Office of Friends United Meeting. I coordinate all Quaker activities and programs in the Quaker churches and school mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of my work is more on leadership development and church planting in the region especially in Tanzania.. Am married with three children all grown up now. I love playing golf as my exercise hobby. I also love reading.

7 responses to “The Undefended Leader”

  1. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I really appreciate the tradition you are a part of John! Such beautiful humility! I am very interested in the suspicion of power your laity have. In Walker’s work, I found his discussion about strength force versus weak force very useful. Would your leaders find the use of Walker’s understanding of weak force useful? I suppose I’m suggesting that the four leadership strategies that incorporate weak force might be considerably more attractive to your demographic and may strategically alleviate some of the tension you’ve been experiencing. Thanks for your post!

  2. Thank you John for sharing the story of the rich man who was asked to go and sell all he had to give to the poor and follow Jesus. This story illustrates how challenging it is to release and let go personal gain and control in order gain the freedom to serve others.

  3. mm Mary Mims says:

    John, great post! Thank you for pointing out the relationship between vision and movement. As leaders, it is important to not just cast a vision, but to get people to move! Thank you for this reminder. It means there is a lot more work to be done for us as leaders.

  4. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your Quaker perspective to Walker’s work. I am most interested in how your research will tease out the conundrum of undefended leadership power and your movement’s abhorrence (with much contextual justification) of the perception of power. Walker proposed a very helpful illustrative construct of the interplay of the backstage and front stage in leaders’ lives. How do you see this helping you in your research? Thanks again for sharing with us your context and your perspective.

    • mm John Muhanji says:

      Thank you, Harry, for asking this question. I am happy the way Galloway is proposing on the element of power the Quaker church is shy of using that word. The book is instrumental in my research as it will bring out the changing times and we cannot pretend to live in yesterday while we are in today’s world. the need to contextualize the approach to conform to the current leadership of the church. The many demographics we experience in our lives day demands some kind of transformation in the church leadership.

  5. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Hi John. You always provide so much new information in your blogs about Quakers and their belief system. I find that to be very enlightening. You shared that “the Quakers operate on the platform of the backstage leadership and less of the frontstage leadership under the trilogy of the undefended leader but would not wish to say they are using power.” You also explained that the Quakers fear power coming in their line of leadership. I find this to be fascinating, as there has been strong leadership in the Quaker world (especially George Fox); yet, there is a fear of power that I was not aware of. Thank you so much for your insight, John.

    • mm John Muhanji says:

      Nancy, Quakers are very powerful in their backstage action and their impact is transformative. But they will always say we are opposed to the use of power, and any leader using the word power in Quaker principles. But their results are always powerful and inspiring. One of there core values is “Simplicity” this virtue is simple but very powerful in transforming lives.

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